English for Japanese, anyone? | ELPNZ

English for Japanese, anyone?

14 June 2013
Venessa Setiawan moved from Indonesia to Auckland when she was 11. At Northcote College she was two years younger than most classmates, and had to communicate in English for the first time.
“I was probably intermediate level in writing and reading. But not in speaking. Maths was easy, but other subjects were hard. There were lots of new words, and I didn’t understand Kiwi slang. 
“I was shy and quiet. It took about two years before I was able to speak up.” 
After moving to Rangitoto College, Venessa made good friends and her fluency developed rapidly. By Year 11, she was doing well academically and life was much easier. 
Remembering how hard it was when she arrived, Venessa was keen to make the transition to a new country easier for others.  She enrolled at the University of Auckland to study psychology and Japanese. But at the end of her first year, Venessa felt unsure of where her studies were taking her. A friend urged her to consider what she liked doing most, and this led to the realisation that she would love to teach, so she enrolled in a TESOL course. 
Her mother had studied with English Language Partners and Venessa saw how much she gained. With her mother’s encouragement, she decided to become a volunteer tutor and enrolled in the training. By mid-year2012, Venessa had two learners. 
“I clicked very well with my Korean learner, Yun Mi. We had so much in common – culture, upbringing and sense of humour. We became good friends very fast.” 
Venessa also got on well with her Japanese learner Naoko; however their lessons took a different form.  “I was thinking of moving to Japan - and English Language Partners suggested I swap lessons with Naoko.” 
Venessa joined a trial where learners and tutors swapped roles. After learning English with their tutor, the learner then teaches their language. 
If tutors wish to learn a particular language, they are paired with a learner who speaks that language and is able and keen to teach it. “We started last year, and it worked really well,” explains Anastasia Kariukin, North Shore centre’s coordinator. 
So far, as well as Venessa’s Japanese lessons, other volunteers have learned Spanish and Mandarin. 
“I’m a guinea pig – a successful guinea pig,” Venessa says with a laugh. “I would recommend swapping one hundred per cent.” 
Venessa experienced some of the same problems learning Japanese at university as she had experienced learning English here. “I could read easily, but needed more vocab. Since I didn’t speak up, I was losing interest in the language, although I still enjoyed learning about the culture and traditions. 
“Naoko built up my confidence. She started by slowly introducing new things. It was a less scary environment than university. It was okay to make mistakes.” 
Venessa and Naoko’s sessions take two hours, with each tutoring for about an hour. Venessa says it’s very flexible, with one tutoring for longer whenever they feel it is necessary. Venessa tutors Naoko in the style taught by English Language Partners. Naoko teaches Venessa in a style similar to that she uses to teach Japanese to Kiwi kids.
Venessa laughs as she explains that Naoko uses many simple children’s books and games - she loves working with these tools. “I see her as my friend. We help each other to be better than we were.” 
Venessa's waiting on her visa application to come through. If all goes well, she will be moving to Japan within a few weeks. She plans to study Japanese intensively and also teach English. Although she has visited as a tourist, she knows that moving there will be quite different – a major change. 
She's thankful Naoko is helping prepare her to speak up in class and to manage everyday life in another new country. 

Writer: Mary Atkinson 

Photos: Jae Ahn 
Mary Atkinson
Photos: Jae Ahn